James Miller III, former FTC Chairman and OMB head, made a point endorsed by all panelists. During the Reagan administration, the mantra was "personnel is policy," which meant that the policy that came out of government (and hence regulatory institutions) depended on appointing people who shared a common vision. Miller noted that "he knew all of the people" nominated by the President to serve with him on the FTC and hence made sure that the President's and his priorities were reflected. Similarly, Darius Gaskins noted President Carter's interest in trucking deregulation, and hence his determination to appoint a top-notch group to the ICC to get something done. Susan Ness likewise agreed that the type and quality of appointees is of enormous import.
Gaskins pointed out a chronic weakness in the composition of commissions is their relatively low-level on the presidential priorities list. Cabinet officers and judges are inevitably more important to Presidents. Unless a President particularly cares about a regulatory issues, like Carter, or makes sure their commissions have avowed deregulators (or rather analytically rigorous and hesitant regulators) like Reagan, there will be a tendency for the administration to give short-shrift to who ends up on commissions. ["We need to appoint this person somewhere...what about ambassador to Fiji? Nah, that's for bigger donors, put 'em on FERC."]